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Tai chi's benefits called into question, but the martial art is still worthwhile Add to ...

Many health benefits have been attributed to the Chinese martial art of tai chi, which combines deep breathing and relaxation with slow and gentle movements.

Various studies have shown it helps improve balance and reduces falls among the elderly. What's more, it may aid in the treatment of hypertension, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer, as well as improve mental well-being.

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This week, a lot of these claims were called into question by researchers at the Korea Institute of Oriental Medicine in Daejeon, South Korea, and the University of Exeter in Britain. They did a systematic review of 35 studies of tai chi and concluded that much of this research is weak or flawed and the purported virtues of the discipline have been overstated.

"The evidence is convincingly positive only for fall preventions and for the improvement of psychological health," they write in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

But even if these two benefits are tai chi's only claim to fame, that still makes it worthwhile. After all, falls and depression are responsible for a great deal of pain and disability.

 

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